Verizon is seeing a great deal of interest in private 5G core networks and private multi-access edge computing (MEC) on the part of healthcare providers. Telecompetitor discussed this and other trends impacting Verizon healthcare initiatives – involving network slicing, artificial intelligence (AI) and more — in an interview with Maggie Hallbach, vice president of business development, public sector for Verizon Business.
“Historically, the idea has been that you bring ubiquitous high-availability mobile connectivity [to market] and developers will come,” commented Hallbach, pointing to the example of Uber, a company whose business model relies on fast mobile broadband connectivity.
“In 5G,” she continued, “you start talking about being able to purpose-build the network infrastructure to support the specific applications.”
One of the technologies underlying this idea is network slicing, a capability of 5G networks that enables service providers to essentially build a service with bandwidth, latency and other parameters fine-tuned to the needs of a specific customer.
Some Verizon healthcare capabilities – glucose monitoring, for example — will be more akin to internet of things (IoT) applications than they are to traditional mobile services, Hallbach noted.
Security will be critical to healthcare applications, and Hallbach sees AI playing an important role there. Using AI, “you can do things like anomaly detection,” which involves recognizing the “signature” typically associated with a device such as a glucose monitor, she explained.
That signature is based on bandwidth, frequency of transmission, performance metrics and how traffic from the device propagates across the network. If the device is compromised, those parameters typically fall outside what would normally be seen from the device, enabling the network to shut the device down before it can do any harm.
Verizon Healthcare Initiatives
Another method for purpose-building network infrastructure to meet the specific needs of healthcare is to construct a private 5G core, which Hallbach described as “a series of equipment – a radio network associated specifically with that customer” that “allows for very specific mission-related services to occur in that core.”
Private MEC may go hand-in-hand with a private 5G core, housing cloud computing resources at a location “local to the network,” Hallbach said.
The demand for private MEC is driven, in part, by security concerns, but “it’s really around being able to maintain and guarantee service levels,” Hallbach said.
Minimizing the distance between the cloud and the person or application leveraging the cloud capability minimizes latency for that person or application – a requirement that will be critical for healthcare applications involving augmented reality, for example.
Hallbach sees Verizon having an edge over traditional data center operators in delivering private MEC because the company’s existing network infrastructure is well suited to housing private MEC resources.
“It’s all software defined,” observed Hallbach, which means that “the devices doing edge computing are quite small—they just need space, power and cooling.”
Verizon mobile cell tower infrastructure is well suited to housing edge computing resources, as are Verizon small cell sites, she said.
And while private 5G networks would seem to be in competition with high-speed wireless alternatives such as Wi-Fi 6e, Hallbach sees Verizon having an edge there, too.
“Many of these hospital environments are more campus-like and Wi-Fi has tremendous problems when you’re talking about more of a campus environment,” observed Hallbach.
Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband service that uses mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum will be particularly well suited to supporting Verizon healthcare customers, Hallbach said.